How would I be graded in my family?

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
– St. John Paul II

We are so used to being graded, it is hard not to put all of life on to some scale of measure. We grade our papers and our tests, we grade our lab work and our performances. We grade the food we eat, the air we breath and the water we drink. We sometimes even look at our relationships in terms of a scale, or get some sense of their importance as they relate to human relationships that we encounter. All this measurement . . . are we any better for it?

The words above spoken by then Pope John Paul II to the people of Australia over 30 years ago still ring true. And given their truth, we can probably grade our family life by looking at our nation and the state of our world. In some ways, our world and country are in better shape than ever while in other ways, quite the opposite. And while the temptation might be to look out to the horizon to see the possible improvement or solution to the world’s problems, I think we would do well to look more closer to home – in fact – to look right into our own home: how would my family grade out?

There is a difference between being critical and offering loving feedback. I am in no way suggesting the former, but rather the latter. John Paul II further noted in October 1979 while visiting here in the USA: “Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.” If this is true, our only litmus test of our family dynamic is one of service, and the question begins with me: do I place myself at the service of my family (or vice versa)? To the extent that I am able to do that, is the extent to which I will be open and available to serve my neighborhood, country and the world. Resume building globe trekking to be of service to others seems slightly disingenuous when my siblings haven’t heard from me in weeks (or insert here other personal example of taking your family for granted).

As we welcome our families to campus this weekend may we be reminded of our call to serve them. When their presence impedes our ability to study or stifles our social agenda, may we muster the noble love to deny ourselves for the sake of those dorky people we call parents (who BTW were cool until they had us). May we see the world which we so plainly recognize as in need of servant love as first calling us to do just that with the people whom we didn’t chose to serve, but are rather given us by God to serve. It is only then that we may have the grades to be accepted into the broader community to be a truer ambassador of the one who perfectly came “to serve rather than to be served”(Mark 10:45).

Peace,

Fr. Mike
fr.mike@duke.edu  c. 919-316-8763 / w. 919-684-1882
Follow me on Twitter @TheDukePriest